Monday, June 16, 2008

Guest Post on Decision-Making

Heather Johnson sent me the following guest post, with her take on a subject that I've spent a great deal of time studying over the years.

The Choices we Make

Any student of management should be familiar with the process of decision-making – describe and understand the problem, identify the objective, determine the alternative options available, evaluate each of these options either objectively or subjectively, and choose the one that fits best. Unfortunately, the simplicity of the statement of the process does not carry over to the actual process itself, which is why most people find the procedure of making decisions extremely difficult.

On one end of the spectrum you have people who agonize over every small thing, from what to eat to what to wear; and on the other, you have those who save their energy to rationalize choices that are life-changing, if not for them, then for the people whose livelihoods depend on them. I’m not trivializing the first category, only trying to highlight the fact that every one of us considers the decisions we have to make as the most important choice we make at the moment.

The art of making decisions is a theory that has been thrashed about, debated on, and put to effective use in almost every boardroom across the globe. But it’s not something that’s applied when it comes to the individual - personal decision-making is a process that’s often intuitive, based on circumstances that prevail at that point, and influenced by people who control aspects of our lives. From where I sit, this is what I’ve learnt about people and the decisions they make:

· The majority is happy to go with the flow; they do not take decisions that change their lives overnight or even set in motion the harbinger of positive change. Any change that happens is forced, and these people then rearrange their lives to fit around the change.
· Some people straddle the fence; they know they have to take a decision one way or the other (mostly a yes-no decision where there is no in-between ground) and they’re hesitant or afraid to choose. The more daring in this category call the shots and finally choose while the meek (who I don’t think will inherit the earth) fall on one side after being either pulled or pushed. If the decision is a success, the one who chose is elated that he made the right decision; if it’s a failure, the one who fell blames the one who pushed him over, a case of passing the buck once again.
· Some let other people decide; they are the laidback kind who are ok with following the leader rather than taking the lead themselves.
· A rare few are go-getters; they plan their lives and map out where they should be at what point of time. These people live their dreams, and if one or two of the dreams die a premature death, they’re back to the drawing board mapping out new strategies and alternatives. This kind thrives in challenges – they do not fear to take the road less trodden and delight in finding offbeat paths that lead them to the pinnacle they hope to achieve.

The choices we make have repercussions, both on ourselves and the people whose lives are intertwined with ours. Unfortunately, there’s no writing on the wall to guide us as we take decisions that sometimes, may be the difference between success and failure, wealth and mediocrity, and even life and death. But the fear of failure should not be a deterrent to attempting – just as you’d get back on a horse asap after a fall, do not hesitate to make a new choice even if the one you made earlier turned out to be a mistake.

The best way to make decisions is to let your head rule your heart and not vice versa. Rational scores way over emotional when it comes to decision-making. The time taken to make a decision should not outweigh the value of the decision itself – it’s not worth it to spend a whole day deciding the color of pants you want to buy. Think your choices over, and when you’re done, your instinct will tell you what’s right.

This guest post is written by Heather Johnson, who frequently writes on the subject of grants for nursing college degree. She welcomes your comments and freelance writing inquiries at: